We already know who the big names in college football are heading into the 2013 season. Players like Johnny Manziel, Jadeveon Clowney, A.J. McCarron, Marqise Lee and Aaron Murray will be the focus of much of the preseason hype. And rightfully so, as they’ve proven themselves on the field time and time again.
But new stars are constantly emerging in college football and we’re sure to be talking about a whole different crop of players a year from now.
We can already discern which players will fit that bill based on what they’ve shown us so far. To that end, here are 10 players whose numbers should explode in 2013. If all goes right, we could be talking about them competing for the Heisman:
Lache Seastrunk, RB, Baylor – Few backs closed out the 2012 season as well as Seastrunk did. The 5-foot-10, 205-pounder rattled off 831 yards in his last six games, averaging 8.1 yards per carry along the way. He finished the year with 1,012 yards despite toting the ball just 29 times in his first six games. Although backfield mate Glasco Martin will still get his share of carries, look for Seastrunk to get the bulk of the work. If that happens, an 1,800-plus-yard season could be in the offing.
Kevin Hogan, QB, Stanford – Hogan was the catalyst for Stanford’s strong finish in 2012. The redshirt freshman started the last six games at quarterback for the Cardinal and performed well, completing almost 72 percent of his passes for 1,087 yards and eight touchdowns during that stretch (he also added 247 yards rushing). With a year of experience under his belt and a better understanding of Stanford’s offense, he should triple his production and blossom into one of the best quarterbacks in the country this fall.
T.J. Yeldon, RB, Alabama – Yeldon was phenomenal as a freshman, rushing for 1,108 yards and 12 touchdowns as a backup to Eddie Lacy. Well, Lacy’s 204 carries and 1,322 yards have now gone to the NFL, which means Yeldon should become the feature back in Alabama’s run-heavy system. A truckload of talented freshman runners will no doubt vie for some of Lacy’s carries, but Yeldon’s experience should win the day, especially in the early going. Look for Yeldon to easily top what Lacy did last year.
Sammy Watkins, WR, Clemson – Watkins was incredible as a freshman, catching 83 passes for 1,225 yards and 12 touchdowns. However, suspensions and injuries hampered his production as a sophomore and he managed just 57 catches for 708 yards and three touchdowns. Clemson didn’t really miss a beat, though, as DeAndre Hopkins stepped up with a monster season. With Hopkins gone to the NFL and Watkins no doubt angling to join him in next year’s draft, we should see the return of the Watkins of old this fall. If he stays healthy and out of trouble, he should double his production from last season.
Nelson Agholor, WR, USC – Biletnikoff winner Marqise Lee is back for another go-around at USC, but he’ll be lining up this fall without Robert Woods on the opposite side. Agholor, a talented sophomore, is a good bet to easily replace the 76 catches Woods brought to the table. After all, he’s sure to get lots of single coverage. After a 19-catch freshman season, Agholor should emerge as one of the best receivers in the Pac-12 in 2013.
Kiehl Frazier, QB, Auburn – The physically gifted Frazier had a disastrous sophomore season, passing for just 753 yards and two touchdowns while rushing for -35 yards as the Tigers went 3-9. The return of Gus Malzahn should make a huge difference since Frazier is not only familiar with his system but also well-suited for it. Don’t be surprised if Frazier is the most improved player in the SEC this fall. He’s got the tools to be a 3,000-yard passer and a 1,000-yard rusher.
Duke Johnson, RB, Miami – Johnson was lightning in a bottle for the Hurricanes as a true freshman, rushing for 947 yards and 10 touchdowns while totaling 2,060 all-purpose yards. Mike James and his 147 carries have graduated, so Johnson should get plenty more looks come fall. If he he can handle the increased reps, he’ll end up with the best year by a Miami running back since Willis McGahee rushed for 1,753 yards in 2002.
Devin Gardner, QB, Michigan – Gardner had the misfortune of spending much of his career backing up one of the most exciting players in college football history, Denard Robinson. But, last season, Gardner finally got his chance to shine. He started the last five games at quarterback for the Wolverines and his numbers were pretty good as he threw for 1,219 yards with 11 touchdowns and a 161 passer rating. He also chipped in another 101 yards rushing. Given that trajectory, it’s not hard to imagine Gardner developing into an elite quarterback with a full season under center.
Blake Bell, QB, Oklahoma – The ‘Belldozer’ has already scored 24 career touchdowns as a short-yardage specialist, but his experience as a passer is limited, with just 20 attempts in two seasons. If, as expected, he earns the nod as the starting quarterback, he’ll have no problem putting up big numbers in the Sooners’ passer-friendly system. The 6-foot-6 254-pounder has the skill set to have Tebow-esque production. He just needs the chance to do it.
Connor Halliday, QB, Washington State – It’s not a stretch to think that a Mike Leach quarterback should put up video game-like numbers. Halliday, a junior, shared the quarterback duties with Jeff Tuel last season and passed for 1,878 yards and 15 touchdowns, but he should have the position to himself this fall. Look for Leach’s system to bear more fruit in Year 2 as Halliday doubles his production.